A Shapeshifting Smartphone

A Shapeshifting Smartphone

Posted On: March 14, 2014
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Paddle is a flexible device that can be transformed from a compact phone to a tablet or game controller.

Researchers at Hasselt University iMinds in Belgium have created a device called “Paddle”, which consists of eight square tiles that can be manipulated into a variety of shapes and sizes depending on what you need to use it for.

Touch screens have been widely adopted in mobile devices. Although touch input is very flexible in that it can be used for a wide variety of applications on mobile devices, touch screens does not provide physical affordances, encourage eyes-free use or utilize the full dexterity of our hands due to the lack of physical controls.

On the other hand, physical controls are often tailored to the task at hand, making them less flexible and therefore less suitable for general purpose use in mobile settings. This idea for a smartphone combines the flexibility of touch screens with the physical qualities that real world controls provide in a mobile context. It uses a deformable device that can be transformed into various special-purpose physical controls.

Paddle is a highly deformable device that can be transformed to different shapes. Paddle bridges the gap between differently sized mobile available devices nowadays, such as phones and tablets. Additionally, Paddle demonstrates a novel opportunity for deformable devices to transform into differently shaped physical controls that provide clear physical affordances for the task at hand.

The phone allows for various physical controls to co-exist in a single device, combining the flexibility of touch screens with the physical controls. The shape-shifting smartphone bridges the gap between different sized mobile devices.

Physical controls have the advantage of exploiting people’s innate abilities for manipulating physical objects in the real world. The researchers designed and implemented a prototyped system of which the engineering principles are based on the design of the Rubik’s magic, a folding plate puzzle.

You can fold the phone into various forms such as a tablet, cell phone, arm band, bracelet, game controller, and any other shape that feels intuitive. That’s a big part of the device’s appeal, to be able to use it without learning specific gestures, and instead just leaf through an article like a book, or roll a bracelet to change frames.